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[ugc3] Final panel

I went first. I talked about exceptionalism, responding to Eli Noam’s challenge at the beginning of the conference that if we’re going to think the Net is going to bring about substantial changes, we have to be able to point to characteristics of it that are different from other technologies that also looked revolutionary but that turned out to be rather prosaic.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Len Downie was executive editor of Washington Post. He’s not going to propose any new form of delivery of the news. He’s not sure the old will die out completely. WaPo is reorganizing itself as a news operation and as a company. They have Facebook and iPhone apps, etc. When it comes to UGC, “this is not a zero sum game.” On WashingtonPost.com you find lots of user comments, participation in blogs, user photos and videos, crowd-sourcing. E.g., Amanda Michel’s “Off the Bus” crowd sourcing, which went through professional editors. (Amanda is now at ProPublica.) They hope the Net will help end the traditional alienation from their readers. And the Net has made their audience bigger than ever before.

The big problem is the loss of classified advertising. Hundreds of millions of dollars lost, hitting local newspapers especially hard. Also, display ads have been driven down. Local news stations are covering fewer stories. There’s less reporting. That’s the problem Len is going to examine in his new academic role at Arizon State.

There are some things the government could do, but not a “bail out,” Len says. Maybe newspapers will become 501C3’s. Maybe they’ll become LC3’s, so they could still be profitable and yet receive tax-exempt contributions. Maybe convert them into endowments, although Len says there isn’t enough money for that: You’d need a ginormous endowment to generate the requisite funds. There are more and more non-profit investigative reporting organizations. There’s a lot going on. It’s impossible to tell what’s going to happen.

Q: How much does investigative reporting cost?
A: At ProPublica, they do it in the best way, and it’s tens of thousands of dollars, mainly for the reporter’s time.

Q: In Germany they’re aggregating news and selling access [I got this wrong] …
A: I’d have to look at it.
Q: Isn’t that what AP does?
A: Don’t get me started. AP is supposed to be a collaborative. If we don’t all charge at the same time, we won’t be able to raise enough money. Alan Mutters [sp] suggests that we all decide on July 4 to start charging. The Obama admin is concerned about the future of news. They’re going to look at loosening anti-trust regs so newspapers can band together, but you don’t want to create another cartel like AP.

Q: If the NYT shut down its presses and went totally online, how would that affect their costs and prices?
A: The Times might save 40-50% of their costs, but it would take away 90% of their revenue. Kindle is great for books but not very good for newspapers. Looking forward to the big multimedia tablets.

Q: The NYT is doing well on the Web. But last year their Web revenue increased just 1%. What’s the future business model?
A: That’s what I’m trying to figure out.


Greg Lastowka (law prof, Rutgers) is going to talk about legal aspects of UGC. First question: What is UGC? It’s a fuzzy concept. “User” is an important term because of copyright. Copyright is not about monetizing the works of authors. Copyright is there to promote the progress of science and the useful arts. Our Constitutional mention is based on the earlier British Statute of Ann that took control away from publishers and gave it to authors, in order to promote education.

Greg predicts that copyright won’t change very much in the next ten years. Copyright law will probably ignore UGC and be large unaffected by it. UGC will be treated as a problem, it will change the rules somewhat (through litigation), but the fundamental shape of copyright law won’t change in response to UGC (says Greg). Ten years ago, he was more optimistic about it. He thought UGC was a huge social boon that was a very bad fit for copyright law, so copyright law would change to reflect that value. The Web was meeting the goals copyright law was established to meet.

Four changes to get copyright law to fit the Web: 1. Simplify the law. 2. People want credit for their work even when they’re happy to have it spread. People get copyright law mixed up with plagiarism. We should work the attribution right into it. 3. Reform terms of service and their enforcement. 4. Subsidize free access content. Copyright is a subsidy for authors.

Greg was arguing this ten years ago. Not much has changed, although there’s progress in open access to academic work. Why haven’t there been more changes? Maybe because our legislators don’t understand what’s happening. The better, sadder, answer is that Greg’s politics were naive. Copyright law today is realistically about protecting big money incumbents. Dan likes copyright and blockbuster movies, but thinks there should be an ecology that enables them and UGC. We’re unlikely to strike a new social contract that reflects the rights of amateur creators.

Q: To what extent is international trade motivating maintaining strict copyright?
A: Legislators certainly care about it.


Stefaan Verhuist (Markle Foundation) presents his model of UGC: Mediation 3.0. It has three new mediating functions that converge to create a new type of mediation. Those functions can be accelerated and made more valuable by making sure they are cheap, deep, and speed. The success depends on four challenges: the 4 Ps.

Setfaan draws a triangle: 1. Establish relations. 2. Provide a new kind of resource that has value for users and that may be created by the users. 3. Remix. Ensure a relation that creates a resource that may be remixed. Their convergence creates UGC. If you can provide resources that are cheap, deep (the value for its users, related perhaps to a geographical location), and speediness. But it can be hard to be cheap, deep and speedy; that’s the challenge.

The 4 Ps: Privacy (relationship), Property (remix), Public sphere obligations and responsibilities (resource), Push and pull (in the center of the triangle) of information. The push-pull presents the policy challenges.

[Posted without re-reading. Gotta run.]

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